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Liveblogging the Hearings
2005-03-17 07:07
by Will Carroll
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

I liveblogged - or tivoblogged at some points - the Congressional Hearings. This section covers the first two panels and the beginning of the third panel with the players. (I'll have another post for the later hearings.) These are simply my immediate, unedited takes on what I saw and heard. I hope you enjoy and participate in comments.

Tom Davis is nervous - his tapping of his legs is forcing his chair to shake. An aide came in and is holding the chair. "We're not grandstanding and this isn't a witch hunt." Yeah right.

Howard Bryant is sitting right behind Bud Selig. Beautiful irony.

Davis - "We will not ask them to name names." Yet they denied immunity on three requests.

Why is Jim Bunning first? Bunning looked addled during his Senate campaign. This could get ugly quick.

Three well publicized suicides blames on steroids. How many deaths related to alcohol? How many teenagers killed in Iraqi combat?

Anyone want to bet that there will be no mention of funding steroid studies?

The 1974 study that Waxman mentions undermines Canseco's claims. If "anabolic steroids were widespread" in '74, Canseco didn't introduce them. "The Chemist," indeed.

Thomas Boswell should have been called. He was the writer that first publicly accused Canseco of using steroids.

Keith Olbermann's been doing a great job on his MSNBC blog. He compares this to Watergate and I think he's right. This is more about "coverup" than it is the crime. Will this force out Selig? It would surprise me, but the fact that this is actually being raised as a possibility is interesting in and of itself. I can't see Selig falling on his sword and I think there would be too much steroid "taint" on both DuPuy and Alderson to give an easy replacement.

Fifteen minutes in and we've had Davis and Waxman reading to us. Snooze.

Would Congress have known about Giambi and Bonds' grand jury testimony if it hadn't been leaked to the SF Chronicle? I'm not sure, but don't think so. Pulitzer.

1 in 16 kids uses steroids? I don't buy it. Maybe they experimented, but consistent use? Seems high.

A single Federal drug policy? Yikes. If I don't trust baseball, why in the hell would I trust the government?

"1 in 16 from 1 in 45" is blamed on baseball. Why not the NFL or, better yet, parents and coaches at the lower levels?

Comparing Selig to Landis ... that's not going to go well for Selig.

Souder (R-IN) is saying steroids are worse than Pete Rose's gambling. Wow.

Souder's insane ... he just said taking the Fifth would be a tragedy. No, Mark, it's called a right and I'm glad Madison codified it.

Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is basically saying that Congress has the right and means to control drugs. Ok, I'll buy that. If he's going to rattle off drugs that are illegal or illicit (his word), then why bother with this hearing? He should worry more about the execution of drug policy, which is apparently not working if we accept the facts as stated.

Is Don Fehr there? I haven't heard.

Again - why is baseball's first offense penalty of 10 days considered significantly less stringent than the NFL's 4 game suspension? An equivalent suspension would be 40 games, or one quarter of the scheduled games. Is that what they're asking for?

Bunning just praised the NFL's policy, saying "everyone agrees it has eliminated steroids there. It works." You've got to be kidding me.

Bunning wants to expunge "steroid fueled statistics." How?

The phrase "national pastime" is really biting baseball in the ass. Let's face it - football is more popular. Heck, NASCAR is really a fourth major league at this stage.

Who's the dark-haired guy with the mustache sitting to Bud's right?

There prepared statements are painful. Don't they consult with each other so they don't get all repetitive?

Bunning didn't seem addled. Boring, but not addled.

Davis and Bunning sure seem to be calling MLB liars, based on the differences between their responses to letters and the actual drug policy.

Oh shit. Dan Burton (R-IN) is my Congressman and a major league asshole. I say "my Congressman" meaning he's from the district that allegedly represents me. He's wanting his idiot hand in the record book.

Is that Arte Moreno in the front row?

Yeah, where is John Walters? What has this jerk done during his reign as "Drug Czar?"

The "or clause" is KILLING baseball right now.

This idea that everyone has to use steroids is a joke. Look, the highest estimates are 50%. That would mean that half of players are not on steroids. Are they saying these players are the lower half? What about players like Cal Ripken? Tony Gwynn? David Eckstein? Gabe Kapler? Vlad Guerrero?

Bunning doesn't seem to have any love for Don Fehr.

Bunning stated that he thinks steroids took hold after '94. I guess he missed Canseco's book.

Bunning's blaming parks and balls as well as steroids. That's solid.

Whoa - how did James Earl Jones get in here? Oh - it's just Danny Davis (D-IL). Cool voice.

72 minutes in before the antitrust exemption came up. Nice shot at McClatchy there.

"We have to get the facts on who was using steroids and who was not." Umm, Rep Ruppersburger, there's no such thing as a time machine.

A break for a vote ... I think the commenter is right. There's no way this thing gets done on time. I'm not even sure we can get it done today.

Interesting thought - does the MLBPA and MLB being pushed together, using the same lawyer and actually standing together in these hearings, reflect positively on the chance for labor peace in the next CBA negotiations? I think so.

How sad is it that ESPN has to have a "legal analyst" on staff?

What kind of doctor is Dr. Denise Garibaldi? Wait, wait ... yes, Tivo confirms that she just called him "Dr. Canseco." I hope that was facetious.

Pause - sorry, Tivoing. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just picked me up for a series of interviews today across Canada on this topic. So, I'm no longer liveblogging, I'm tivoblogging. I get credit for that phrase. Must credit Juiceblog!

"One third of the football players are juicing." Mr. Hooton ... prove it!

Why do I care that this guy's dead son was a "ladies man" and "well mannered"? I'm sorry his son killed himself. I wish he'd paid more attention to the problem when his son was alive rather than wasting our time putting himself up as an expert. Where's Rick Collins? The drug czar, John Walters? Gen. Barry McCaffrey? Dr. Gary Green? Someone give me ten minutes in a real debate with this guy.

Mr. Hooton is telling us that MLB players are more influential than parents. Guess what - that's the parents problem. DO BETTER.

Someone explain to me why Hooton is speaking. His foundation has put how many dollars towards research and how much towards publicity? Now he's talking about coaches needing standards. Sure, let's pass the "No Child Left On Juice" Act.

Holy crap. Actual science from Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA. THIS is the type of information that we need. She should have been the first speaker.

Ha! The Congressman from Maryland is asleep! Too bad he's missing the best information. I'm going to try and get this Dr. Volkow to do a Q&A and wish I'd tried to interview her for "The Juice" rather than Green and Wadler. ATLAS and ATHENA are good, solid programs - I wish she'd speak more about them and their effects.

Someone needs to define "use" and "abuse." It's an important distinction.

Why does Wadler need to give his bio? I'm hoping that the committee knows who is in front of them. ESPN is popping up his bio on screen, so we could have saved some time and self-ducking.

WADA has a budget of $23 million? That's the WHOLE thing? Jeez.

Two hours and twelve minutes before the first mention of amphetamines. That's sad.

Wadler believes MLB (and by implication, other sports) cannot administer their own testing program. That's interesting. The Olympic movement is pretty porous itself. Look at just the BALCO client list. Look in the mirror, Dr. Wadler.

"Suicide and homicide is not reversible." Wow, thanks for the insight, Dr. Brower. Didn't Rany go to med school at Michigan? ;)

Ah, Elliot Pellman. Ok, I feel better that he's been called. I hadn't seen his name (or Dr. Gary Green) on any list. Nice callout of the NFL. PGA has a drug testing policy? Never really thought about it.

Does anyone get the sense that this committee would be glad to bust the MLBPA if Selig stood up and said they're the reason he can't put in a stronger policy?

Good call on team physicians, trainers, and EAP. I was at the Brewers medical symposium and, without going into details, there was very good information there. It included what Pellman just discussed, that there are significant penalties for the enabling of drug use. I haven't heard that mentioned elsewhere, which is partially my fault.

How did this Sweeney clown get the idea that Pellman was pro-steroid? I like that Pellman admitted that there are no valid studies. Pellman comes off as very credible. VERY nice calling down DHEA's legality (because of lobbying by the AMA.)

Yes! Pellman vs. Wadler is on! Whoops, Waxman's backing Wadler. Shays reached new heights of douchebaggery with his "this subject has done more to bring Democrats and Republicans together than anything in the last eighteen years." I'll say that this hearing has done more for me to loathe both Democrats and Republicans than anything else.

Candice Miller (R-MI) says "they'll learn more from this panel (Parents, doctors) than any of the others." Why? Oh great, she's going to write an editorial. Is that the power she has? Writing to a newspaper?

The average player in baseball is 220 pounds? That doesn't sound right. Can someone look this up?

I like how they refer to everyone in Congress as "the gentleman from (state)." Wish I could be referred to this way. Unfortunately, Souder's from my state. He just equated players - all players - with drug dealers for not speaking out against steroids. Someone tell that to David Eckstein or Cal Ripken.

"Steroids work or athletes wouldn't take them." Brower should take a look at the studies on the efficacy of androstendione. Athletes sure took that and even admitted it.

Why ask this guy - the one that missed all the signs that he says were apparent in retrospect - how to figure out if your kid is on steroids? I won't elect Barney Fife as sheriff.

Tom Lantos, an Auschwitz survivor, brings a gravity to this that no one else has. I'm not sure if that's valid or just the fact that we allow him more respect than his expertise on this issue should. His comparison to corporate fraud and tobacco is problematic. His going after Pellman was uncalled for. What does he think the reduction of positive tests resulted from? Penalties or perception? I think that the public perception is much more important than anyone is giving credit.

Hey Wadler - WADA had no shot at testing THG until another coach who was juicing his athletes turned them in. Hey Wadler - Justin Gatlin, your Olympic sprinting champion, was coached by that juicer and, oh yeah, was coming off a suspension for using ADD drugs.

"Who manufactures these steroids?" Good question from Paul Kanjorski (D-PA). It doesn't appear that he listened when they talked about there being valid medical uses. Hooton is throwing misinformation out about where steroids come from. Wadler came in with some good information. This line of questions is actually one of the more productive so far. Unfortunately, they all seem to be discussing interdiction and supply control rather than education and demand control.

Google "buy steroids." Thanks for the how-to, Mr. Garibaldi. They're going to regulate Google now.

Lynch (D-MA), a former labor attorney, finally brings up the "killswitch clause" where MLB and the MLBPA would resist any attempt by the government to investigate or regulate testing. I like how Pellman didn't back down from Waxman's unfair questioning.

ESPN is reporting that Sammy Sosa will deny using steroids. Stunner. "I have never injected myself with illegal performance enhancing drugs." - Sosa. That's a pretty careful statement. Schilling and Thomas as player reps on a steroid task force? Ho-ly crap. Did Schilling and Thomas know that coming in?

Wadler took a nice shot at the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act of 1994, blaming it for much of the problem.

Oh boy, Darrell Issa, who spearheaded the Gray Davis recall, calling for more asterisks. Did anyone suggest that Sammy Sosa lose hits or home runs after he was caught with a corked bat?

Someone ask Tom Osborne how many of his former football players took steroids. Seriously. Or whether this is so much more important than, say, Lawrence Phillips smacking his girlfriend around or the general thuggery that was rampant at Nebraska during his tenure.

Nice work from Pellman on hGH. His statement about that being a bigger problem than steroids was strong. Wadler proceeded to seriously dodge the question.

Why does Jose Canseco look like he's about to cry? An interesting statement by "The Chemist", calling the raison d'etre of the committee into severe question. Interesting that Davis is blaming the Justice Department for the denial of immunity.

How many times will we see the images of these players standing and being placed under oath. They're now tainted. Period.

Compare the size of Canseco with Sosa and Palmeiro. It's stunning. Don't try and make the "Sosa shrunk" argument. I saw him in 2002, 2003, and 2004 in the clubhouse and I did not see any apparent changes in his body. Of course, I can't speak to any changes prior to that.

Okay, now McGwire is tearing up. I don't get that. Interesting that he's going to take the Fifth. It should be interesting to see which questions he will answer and which will cause him to invoke. He drank more water during that statement than Robin Williams doing standup.

Here's a thought ... how big is McGwire's son now? He was a pretty big kid for his age back in 1998. McGwire's brother was even bigger than Mark was, even at his biggest. If the kid is big, it would seem it's genetic and would explain a lot about McGwire's size.

Nice strong statement from Rafael Palmeiro. Wonder if anyone will ask him about viagra. I'm a bit surprised that he didn't mention knowing Canseco as a youth.

Another nice statement from Schilling. Good solid backing of the current testing policy with good use of statistics to demonstrate his points. He definitely made a great point about the public outing of users and supplements needing regulation. Say what you will about Schilling, but the guy is not a 'dumb jock.'

Thomas and Schilling were so party-line that I think they may have been handpicked by baseball and/or the union. If so, I think they were good choices and wish them the best of luck.

Comments
2005-03-17 07:23:25
1.   TFD
Here, here re: Bos, his last few paragraphs today were brilliant:

>>>>This hearing is for Hank Aaron, who hit 755 home runs with his wrists, not a syringe. It's for Babe Ruth, who didn't need the "clear," the "cream" or the "red beans." It's for Frank Robinson, who played when 586 home runs made you a legend, not a "Chemist," and for Mickey Mantle, who hit a ball 565 feet with muscles built in Oklahoma, not bought as human growth hormone.

Above all, this hearing, for all its flaws, is the day baseball has to admit the four central truths about steroids that it has tried to avoid for so long. They are illegal. They are a serious health hazard. They are cheating. And baseball has been full of them.

The game, the union and the players must be forced to realize that, from now on, the burden of proof is on baseball to devise and implement a steroids-testing policy that is second to none.

At this point, nothing less will do. >>>>

Here's the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42071-2005Mar16.html

Olbermann is right on target. By the way, his line in this interview is great: "I don't think of baseball as sport, I think of it as breathing."

http://www.courant.com/features/lifestyle/hc-olbermann.artmar15,0,6732281.story

2005-03-17 07:29:29
2.   TFD
As for a why a national drug policy? Just remember: the automotive industry said they never needed government intervention while they were polluting our air; the paper industry said they could police themselves while they were dumping chlorine and other chemicals into our streams and rivers; the tobacco industry needed no intervention while it was secretly making deathly addicting drugs more deathly addicting.

Color me skeptical, but anytime an 'industry' says, "Hey this isn't the government's business, we can police ourselves," I'm not buying.

2005-03-17 07:32:03
3.   Chris Needham
My blood pressure is rising just listening to this crap.

To answer your 'why Bunning first?' question, that's standard procedure. Members of Congress always go first. There's NO WAY this hearing's done before 2. NONE.

2005-03-17 07:32:50
4.   Dave M
Will,

I originally thought that guy sitting over Bud's right shoulder was you. Do you have an evil twin in the MLB front office?

2005-03-17 07:38:05
5.   Chris Needham
Someone appears to have replaced Jim Bunning with Bob Feller. That's a cratchety old man!
2005-03-17 07:58:10
6.   Chris Needham
--Is Don Fehr there? I haven't heard.
He's on the witness list.

--There prepared statements are painful. Don't they consult with each other so they don't get all repetitive?

Nope. It's like that at every hearing. Typically, each congressman at the hearing gets a statement. They gave us mercy by only letting the subcommittee chairs do it today.

2005-03-17 08:20:36
7.   Scott Long
OK, I'm not an unbiased reader here, but every media source carrying this story should be linking to Will, as he's making a LOT of points that just isn't being discussed in the mainstream media. Great stuff.
2005-03-17 08:22:14
8.   Jay Jaffe
About the only thing Bunning -- who at least is more lucid than he was during his campaign -- said that I agree with is that it's very tough for Congress to try to impose something on baseball during the middle of a collectively bargained agreement.

I missed his balls and parks line. Will knows where I stand on this one ;-)

2005-03-17 08:26:45
9.   Chris Needham
It'll get done today. It's not unheard of for hearings to drag into the night. I'm sure it will be amazingly timed to all wrap up before the evening news. (Or at least the most juicy parts!)
2005-03-17 08:33:42
10.   Jay Jaffe
Y'know, that antitrust exemption means that Congress has MLB by the balls. The single best way to get Bud&Co's attention and to force change upon the game is to bring that up.
2005-03-17 09:08:19
11.   Duane
I don't believe that we knew for sure who took steroids when these kids were taking them. The fact is they took steroids for their own benfit, not b/c some athlete may or maynot have taken them. Hey it's tragic that they killed themselves but it has nothing to do with MLB. Let's not forget that those kids were criminals as well, since these parents want to make a deal about players being criminals. One last thing it really ticks me off that this focus on MLB totally ignores the programs that are loaded with steroids- high school football.
2005-03-17 09:13:51
12.   Jay Jaffe
Agreed on #11. If three baseball-playing kids committed suicide, how many high school football players have done so as the dark side of emulating their NFL role models? How many HS football-playing kids are doing steroids relative to their baseball counterparts? Exponentially more, I would bet.
2005-03-17 09:24:27
13.   Duane
I graduated HS in 1990 and I know football players that played around with anabolic steroids, and this was just a small podunk school in the middle of no-where.
2005-03-17 10:29:15
14.   Andrew
If I hear one more Congressperson claim that something "is self-evident" I'm going to throw something. Whatever happened to evidence?

It's self-evident that logic is not present in DC today.

2005-03-17 10:31:43
15.   Andrew
More bad logic - from the Michigan Medical School Doctor: people wouldn't take them if they didn't work. Ugh.

I'm sort of ashamed to be a Michigan grad student if that's our public face today.

2005-03-17 10:42:19
16.   TFD
Guys: There is no objective truth at this point (longitudional studies on 'roids), so are we supposed to just ignore the problem? Ignore subjective evidence? Sometimes there is not sufficient objective evidence, so how do you proceed?
2005-03-17 10:44:50
17.   Will Carroll
There is objective evidence. Please, please, please go read my NY Sun piece, that references some studies.

Better yet, read down to the blog post that became that Sun piece and read the linked Williams article.

2005-03-17 11:01:10
18.   Chris Needham
Not that I'm adding anything to the conversation, but the reason they refer to each other as the "gentleman from STATE" is because, until just this past year, there was a House rule against using names of fellow legislators in the House.

The thinking was that that would keep some of the arguments a little less personal and a little less heated. Now they're free to rail on Ted Kennedy and Tom Delay as much as they'd like.

2005-03-17 11:04:22
19.   TFD
Will: Are you talking about the transsexual study? If so, where can one view this? And that is the complete objective proof?

Also I can't read the post you are discussing as I believe it's already rolled off the scroll, and I don't know if historicals are available yet here.

2005-03-17 12:10:28
20.   Marc Normandin
Just so you know Will, you are the only person I've been able to stand talking about the steroids issue today. All of the media outlets are just making me want to write the history paper I'm avoiding like the plague simply to stop hearing them. Keep up the great posting on this issue, and I can't wait for your book to come out.
2005-03-17 12:32:56
21.   Will Carroll
Not just the transsexual study, but FDA studies on commonly used drugs like Propecia and the alkylated steroids that we commonly call birth control pills.
I do think that transsexual study is one of the most stark, outstanding studies I've seen, one of the reason I highlighted it.
2005-03-17 12:35:58
22.   Will Carroll
Here's the article: http://www.mesomorphosis.com/articles/williams/demonization-of-anabolic-steroids-01.htm
2005-03-17 12:37:03
23.   Jim Hitchcock
From what I've read amphetamine use is far more rampant than steroid use (o.k., it's anecdotal,
but a figure of 70% was recently tossed around in a SF Chronicle article). Any thoughts as to why stimulant use is ignored in testing (and seemingly in these hearings for the most part)?
Is it because steroids are percieved as an issue in the setting of records (HR's and otherwise), and amphetamines are not?
2005-03-17 12:38:49
24.   Jim Hitchcock
Perceived, darn it...
2005-03-17 12:49:19
25.   Will Carroll
It was specifically written out of the policy. I dont want to speculate as to why, but it was clearly taken out of play for a reason.
2005-03-17 12:54:55
26.   Rip2632
Fascinating Freudian slip on ESPN.com's hearings coverage...Canseco's book is (and has been for several hours now) listed as "Cursed" instead of the correct title, "Juiced."

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2014564

2005-03-17 14:13:32
27.   TFD
Bernie Sanders the voice of reason. Go figure.
2005-03-17 14:32:31
28.   ChiJim
Without expilicitly speculating why stimulants were left out of the agreement, I think that the use of stimulants isn't viewed as as big as a deal as steroids for a few reasons. First and foremost that they've been in the game for decades so people can't get in an uproar about the heroes of their childhood being "cheated" my modern practices. Secondly baseball is pretty open about stimulant use. And thirdly stimulant use is widespread everywhere from office and factory workers with a pot of coffee in the morning to truckdrivers popping NoDoz while cruising down the interstate at 3 in the morning.
2005-03-20 01:30:34
29.   dusty
I sat, I watched..i threw up..well..kinda..the whole thing was a vehicle for a bunch of senators to get their 15 minutes of fame..that and bud selig saying"I have been in baseball for 40 years"..over and over and over again. The kids parents really threw me for a loop.Why the hell didnt they put somone on from the highschool and college level sports and rip them a new one. MLB players didn't tell that kid to bulk up, his coach at USC did.
2005-03-21 17:22:43
30.   talkingbaseball
There is some great satire of the hearings at www.talkingbaseball.net, where they actually are accusing the players of being witches:
DAVIS: That doesn’t explain why you have recently lent your name to a brand new line of cauldrons called “Mark McGwire’s Lean, Mean, Toad-Brewing Cauldron Thing.”
MCGWIRE: There’s a difference between being a witch and believing in a product.

Read the whole thing here: http://www.talkingbaseball.net/blog/?p=129

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